HONESDALE—Newly elected President Judge Janine Edwards was sworn-in to her duties as the 21st President Judge of Wayne County Friday afternoon, December 29, in the main courtroom of the Wayne County Courthouse.
Standing with her family behind her, friends and well-wishers populating the court's gallery, Edwards swore her oath to uphold the duties of the court before then sitting President Judge, now Senior Judge, Raymond Hamill.
Shortly after taking her oath, Edwards noted feeling an overwhelming power of support drawn from the room.
“I'm also feeling like I'm ready to work,” she added. “You talk about service and you talk about helping and making decisions, it makes you wanna get right to the job, so I'm very excited to start.”
Edwards taking her oath of office was an historic occasion as she is the county's first woman elected President Judge.
The adjudicator noted the event's significance in that it allows her to demonstrate to young girls in her family and those she supports and coaches in the community that they can do anything they set their minds to.
Addressing said young women in the community after taking her position on the bench, Edwards stated, “I try to impress upon them the things that were taught to me: Be a leader, not a follower; lead with humility, grace, service and courage; love your family and friends first, work hard second at your career and you can have both; always set a goal and don't ever let anyone tell you that you cannot do that or you can't be that; I hope to you girls, who are in my care, that I am an example to you, that yes you can.”
Edwards' new office is a fitting next step given the former District Attorney (DA) was the county's first woman to hold that position as well, elected to it in 2012.
As DA, Edwards prosecuted every Wayne County murder case, achieving a 100 percent conviction rate, as stated on her campaign website.
Prior to serving as DA, Edwards practiced law in myriad disciplines such as real estate, bankruptcy, divorce and custody, family law, business law, personal injury, social security disability and workers compensation.
Edwards also served some time as a public defender for Wayne County.
“Wayne County is where I'm from,” said Edwards. “The love I have for our towns and our community is, I hope, what will guide me as your judge.”
Senior Judge Raymond Hamill will remain on hand to offer any advice or council Edwards may need in starting her judicial journey, as well as to hear any cases Edwards may need to recuse herself from due to their being filed during her time as DA.
“For the time being, I'm anxious to keep Judge Hamill close by as my senior judge,” Edwards said Friday.
Words from celebrants and laudators
Honoring Edwards from the bench in addition to Hamill were Pike County President Judge Gregory Chelak, Lackawanna County Judges James Gibbons and Andrew Jarbola, and Lackawanna County Senior Judge Robert A. Mazzoni.
Noting Edwards' career thus far, Hamill stated, “she has been a credit to the bar, to her profession at large, and to her high office.”
Talking directly to the new President Judge, Hamill stated, “The citizens of Wayne County have voted overwhelmingly, entrusting this high honor and responsibility to you. I have every expectation and no doubt that you will justify their faith and confidence each and every day of your tenure.”
Speaking on behalf of the Wayne County Bar Association, attorney Nicholas Barna noted Edwards serves in all her capacities with “... diligence, determination and passion for what she was doing ...” and has for as long as he's known her.
Noting Edwards' commitment to the law and ways she proved to be innovative in her pursuit of justice, Barna noted, “She made us a better bar association.”
In lauding Edwards, former Wayne County President Judge Robert J. Conway stated that when he'd first met the newly-elected as a lawyer, he knew she would one day take his seat behind the bench.
“She was a good lawyer,” said Conway, “a very good lawyer.”
Filling her shoes
In taking her seat on the bench, Edwards left behind a vacancy as DA.
First Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Pat Robinson will step in to fill her shoes until the term ends on January 6, 2020.
Robinson took his oath of office later in the day on Friday, December 29.
Originally from Semmes, Alabama, Robinson is an honorably discharged United States Air Force veteran who earned his Undergraduate degree from the University of New Mexico, his Law degree from the University of Alabama and a Master's Degree in Public Administration from Auburn University.
Robinson has served Wayne County as ADA for almost a quarter century, 21 years of which were served as First ADA under past DAs Mark Zimmer, Michael Lehutsky and Janine Edwards.
“I greatly appreciate the loyalty to me and confidence in me exhibited by Janine Edwards,” said Robinson in a release, “I will work with the local Law Enforcement Community and the Pennsylvania State Police to enforce the law, firmly and fairly.
“I believe in the Rule of Law and will enforce the criminal laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to the very best of my ability regardless of the consequences.”
In giving thanks after her own oath-swearing, Edwards stated of her successor, “...the time he gave me in my six years is and has been a blessing. He will replace me and succeed as the District Attorney in Wayne County and you [the county] are in incredibly good, strong hands, during his term.”
—Information from a release was used in this story.